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Rudolph Red Nose

December 25, 2012 by  

Rudolph Red Nose, Most people know Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose – but why? Medical researchers say they’ve now found the answer.

The secret to Rudolph’s rosy schnozzle is the dense network of blood vessels in his nose. Reindeer, it seems, have 25 percent more capillaries carrying red, oxygen-rich blood in their nasal architecture than humans, say the scientists from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

“In colder climates, and also when they are higher up in the atmosphere pulling Santa’s sleigh, the increase in blood flow in the nose will help keep the [nose’s] surface warm,” John Cullen of the University of Rochester told MedPage Today. The dense network of blood vessels in reindeer noses is also essential for regulating the animal’s internal body temperature – like many mammals, reindeer don’t sweat.

The researchers took advantage of high-tech instruments such as hand-held intravital video microscopes to compare the blood vessels of two reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) with those of human volunteers (five healthy humans and one with nasal polyps). One of the human volunteers was examined after inhaling 0.0035 ounces (100 milligrams) of cocaine, “a drug routinely used in ear, nose, and throat medicine as a local anaesthetic and vasoconstrictor,” the researchers write in the British Medical Journal this week.

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